Kartarpur Corridor: Will Pakistan learn from Guru Nanak?
by Ashok B Sharma on 19 Nov 2019 0 Comment

Since the partition, the India-Pakistan relationship is marked by continuing mistrust, unresolved issues, broken promises and unending conflicts. In between, any thaw in this relationship is viewed with much excitement and hope in the country. But this time the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor between the two countries evoked mixed response. The reason for this is that Pakistan has been most unpredictable in the past and hence the opening of the corridor connecting Dera Baba Nanak Sahib in India and Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan, though a welcome step, is unlikely to lead to a process of composite dialogue between the two countries.


Pakistan continues with repeated ceasefire violations at the border and attempts to export terror to India. New Delhi has made clear that terror and talks can’t go together. The international community has suggested that the neighbours resume the dialogue process after India abrogated special provisions regarding the State of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated it into two Union Territories. India maintains that this action is within the scope of its internal affairs and its arguments have been backed by many countries, even though Islamabad differs on this issue. The international community is more concerned about the possible fallout between the two nuclear powers. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan hinted at the nuclear threat at the recently concluded UN General Assembly, while India remains steadfast on its Nuclear Doctrine of “no first use”.


The demand for opening up a corridor to Kartarpur Sahib was raised by India on several occasions. During the historic visit to Lahore on the Sada-e-Sarhad or Delhi-Lahore bus, the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee raised the issue of Kartarpur Corridor with his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif. Subsequently after the coup that ousted Nawaz Sharif, his successor General Pervez Musharraf as Chief Executive of Pakistan gave the green signal to construct the corridor on the Pakistani side. The then Chairman of Pakistan Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, Lt General Javed Nasir, shared details of the plan with General Musharraf. But this proposal could not be taken up for final agreement between the two countries.


According to news reports, Lt General Nasir was a hardliner in the Pakistani army who believed that “Khalistan” could be achieved through peaceful means. At a reception hosted by Paramjit Singh Sarna, president, Delhi Gurudwara Management Committee, in Lahore, Lt General Nasir reportedly argued that Sikhs must get their demands regarding separate identity incorporated in the Constitution before launching a separatist movement.


Later, in 2014, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh informed the Chief Minister of Punjab, Capt. Amarinder Singh, that New Delhi would take up the issue again with Pakistan in the next bilateral talks. But no progress was made.


In August 2018, former cricketer turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, visiting Islamabad to attend the inauguration ceremony of Prime Minister-designate Imran Khan, took up the issue with Pakistan Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who agreed to open the corridor on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev ji.


Accordingly, India, too, moved fast. On November 22, 2018, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, resolved to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev ji in 2019 and approved the development of the Kartarpur Corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district up to the international border on the Indian side. On November 26, 2018, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu laid the foundation stone on the Indian side, in presence of Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh.


Following this, a ground breaking ceremony was held in Pakistan by Prime Minister Imran Khan in presence of Indian politicians Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Hardeep Singh Puri and Navjot Singh Sidhu. At this ceremony, Imran Khan called for resolving all bilateral issues through a renewed dialogue process. But the then Indian Minister for External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, de-hyphenated the Kartarpur Corridor project from the composite dialogue process. She said terror and talks cannot go together. For resumption of bilateral talks, Pakistan has to stop repeated ceasefire violation at the border and refrain from exporting terror to India.


Keeping in view the sentiments of Sikh devotees, India de-hyphenated the Kartarpur Corridor project from the composite dialogue process and moved fast to develop the corridor and integrated check post. Inaugurating the Kartarpur Corridor on the Indian side, Prime Minister Modi on November 9, 2019 recalled how the Berlin Wall was pulled down, uniting the two Germanys and hoped the same should be the case of connectivity between two neighbours.


Will Pakistan think on this line? Should it not stop ceasefire violations at the border and refrain from exporting terror to India and come for a composite dialogue? Prime Minister Modi also promised setting up of an Interfaith University in Amritsar and declaring Sultanpur Lodi as a heritage city. He stressed on connectivity and thanked the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for cooperating in opening the corridor.


But Pakistan based on a particular theological ideology considers India as an enemy country. This is particularly the case with the Pakistan military and the ISI, while the civilian leadership has no option but to toe the line. As per the MoU signed between the two countries, Indian Sikhs were to pay $20 per person and carry their passport. But Imran Khan proposed as a show of goodwill that passport was not necessary which was ultimately turned down by the Pakistani Army. A plaque put up in front of Kartarpur Gurudwara said the India Air Force dropped a bomb in 1971 war with the intention of destroying the Gurdwara, but it did not happen due to the divine powers of Guru Nanak Dev ji. This sort of propaganda is unlikely to affect the minds of majority of Indian Sikhs who are nationalists by nature. 


Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was at the inauguration ceremony at Kartarpur Sahib, praised Imran Khan more than Prime Minister Modi. He should know that it was India which first pleaded for opening up the corridor long back and Prime Minister Modi put in equal efforts to develop the corridor on the Indian side in record time.


Whatever may be the motives of Pakistan in opening the Kartarpur Corridor, it is laudable that India took the right step in de-hyphenating the corridor project from the composite dialogue process, in deference to the sentiments of Sikh devotees. The greatly revered Guru Nanak Dev ji spent at least 18 years of his life in Kartarpur. He attained Joti Jot (heavenly abode) from this site. He was the living Apostle of Hindu-Muslim unity. Will Pakistan learn from the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev ji? 

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